Most public discussions of national policy issues are staid and unexciting until they are personified by passionate individuals representing the two or more sides of the issue. This is true of the issue on responsible mining, which has been declared to be one of the principal concerns of the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
True, such questions as whether this country should derive more of its energy supply from coal or whether mining folk are generally irresponsible are by no means unimportant. But until lately they have not engaged the excitement and intense interest of the Filipino people. But now they do, and that’s because the two sides of the debate now have names. The names are Gina and Manny. The public is now more interested in the progress of the debate—and the issues involved—because of the Gina and Manny Show.
Gina is, of course, the newly appointed head of DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) Regina Lopez. Manny is, of course, Manuel V. Pangilinan, chairman of one of the largest and oldest mining companies in this country, Philex Mining Co. Inc.
The public personas—or is it personae?—of these two individuals differ greatly. Secretary Lopez is a persistent and super-articulate expounder of opinions and ideas, while Manny Pangilinan—commonly referred to by the media as MVP—is the consummate corporate CEO: proper, measured and protocol-conscious. On the subject of mining—more specifically, what she refers to as irresponsible mining—Gina Lopez is an immovable object. But on the issue of law-abiding mining companies’ right to operate with a minimum of government interference, MVP is an irresistible force. Thus, we have a perfect example of an irresistible force meeting an immovable object. Irresistible Manny versus immovable Gina.
Using media parlance, the first episode of the Manny and Gina Show aired during a 2014 multi-organization conference on the policies of the Aquino administration and the state of the Philippine economy. In the course of the question-and-answer portion of the conference, a spirited—somewhat nasty, actually—exchange erupted between Gina Lopez and Manny Pangilinan. The incident appeared to have ended amicably, but some people close to MVP say that he left the conference with bruised feelings.
That was the only public airing of the Manny and Gina Show. Since then the show’s two stars have skirmished only indirectly, i.e., through the media. The show’s latest episodes took place at the recently held annual meeting of Philex Mining stockholders and at recent interviews given by the new DENR (and Mines and Geosciences Bureau) head. Manny Pangilinan’s remarks to the Philex stockholders were along the lines of “We’re abiding by the laws. Let’s see what Secretary Lopez does.” Gina Lopez’s remarks have invariably included the phrases “will never allow” and “will close down.”
Rudyard Kipling wrote that “East is East and West is West and never the ‘twain shall meet.” At the present juncture of the Philippine mining industry, will the ‘twain never meet? Or will the future episodes of the Gina and Manny Show feature mutual accommodation, greater flexibility and a generally more genial environment?
I am optimistic.
E-mail: [email protected]